On a wet and chilly night, last Tuesday, county Republican chair Christian Schoenewald stood just outside the entrance to the main shelter at McIntire Park and beamed. “I’m surprised at the size of the turnout,” he said, while underneath the roof his wife dispensed ballots to those who continued to arrive, joining the throng already accumulated to nominate two candidates for the Board of Supervisors. After eating from a potluck dinner, conservative county residents picked Duane Snow to run in the Samuel Miller District and Rodney Thomas in the Rio District.
The local GOP will run Rodney Thomas for the Rio Supervisor’s seat. Completing the Meadowcreek Parkway is his top priority, he said earlier this week.
In a short address, the latter repeatedly promised to reduce spending if he is elected—Thomas would have to beat incumbent David Slutzky—by lowering taxes. “The taxpayers of Albemarle County should not be solely responsible for making up the shortfalls of the budget,” he said.
Thomas ran unopposed for the nomination while Snow beat out fellow candidate Phil Melita to try to replace longtime Supervisor Sally Thomas who is retiring after 15 years on the board. “We have county leaders that have no idea of how to run a business,” he said, calling on his 35 years of experience as the owner of Snow’s Garden Center. Democrat Madison Cummings and independent John Lowry will challenge him for the seat.
For the most part, the two echoed each other. Both voiced their support for the Meadowcreek Parkway with Thomas vowing to make its completion his top priority if elected. The two nominees also expressed their disgust with the county’s pattern of overanalyzing possibilities with no real action taken. “When my kids were young and we moved to the county they were babies and we were talking about transportation and water and we have spent millions of dollars in studies and what do we have?” asked Snow. “Nothing,” someone in the crowd shouted, and Snow responded: “We don’t have anything to show for it except higher taxes and higher property values.”
Overall, there was nothing particularly distinct about the nominees’ message—it closely jibed with the general conservative mantra of fiscal responsibility—but the sheer size of the crowd—numbering almost 150 with half voting in the Samuel Miller District—seemed significant. Even though Republicans lost the national election in November, they have coalesced around the issue of government overspending beginning with the AIG bailout that same month. The mid-April Tax Day Tea Party that was held at a packed Pavilion was the first sign of this, the nominating event at McIntire the exclamation point. Conservatives are clearly experiencing a reawakening.
“This is the most active I’ve seen the [local] party,” says Schoenewald, who unsuccessfully ran for the Board in 2004. “It’s exciting to be a part of that…. It really is an honor and a privilege to lead when there’s so much interest.” According to the party chair, there are so many volunteers that he has trouble finding work for them, and for the state nominating convention (which took place the last weekend in May) the county GOP is sending 154 delegates. Last year, they only sent 34. “It’s going to be a fun election cycle,” Schoenewald says. “There’s definitely something in the air.”
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